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McIlroy sets up Augusta trip for his old mate Paul

Past Great Britain and Ireland boys golf squad captain Stuart Paul from Tandragee Golf Club has had a dream come true this week.

The former North of Ireland Champion and West of Ireland champion is in Augusta for the Masters as a guest of Rory McIlroy.

Scratch player Stuart always looked after young Rory as a junior when supplying him with high brand golf equipment as area manager for top US golf manufacturers Titliest and Footjoy.

When Stuart arrived from a long flight to Atlanta on Tuesday little did he realise what young Rory had laid on for himself and coach Michael Bannon from Bangor Golf Club.

Not only is he staying in a house overlooking the course, he and Michael have been enjoying meeting the players and management teams. Their opening night surprise was a barbecue next door with McIlroy’s manager Chubby Chandler, Lee Westwood and Shane Filan from Westlife to name but a few. Filan and was caddying for Westwood in yesterday’s par three competition.

Rory planned Stuart's ticket to Augusta last year when he qualified and he send Paul a surprise text at Christmas.

A delighted Stuart said: "It was one of the eight tickets allocated to Rory and he sent me the invitation by text. Always as a child Rory promised if he made it to the Masters that I would get a ticket. "

Stuart's wife Esther, who also plays golf at Tandragee said: "This is a trip of a lifetime for Stuart. It is something he has always dreamed of.

"There is a fantastic hype to the Masters in Augusta, and a great influx of people from the Irish golf scene. Harry Diamond, Rory's long time friend from Bangor is also there along with Rory's girlfriend Holly."

Paul beat Graeme McDowell in the North of Ireland amateur Open final at Portrush in 2001 but opted to remain as an area manager for Northern Ireland and Isle of Man with Titliest rather than turn professional.

However he remains a well-known face on the golfing circuit and has been on the junior GB and Ireland squad with Padraig Harrington and he was on Ulster Boys and Juniors with Darren Clarke.

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